Sharon’s note: I remember when I thought that strange objects I found had magic just because they were strange. It was earlier this morning. A dead woman’s teeth, even fake ones, sound like they they should be magically significant, don’t they? Waning: Author is reveling in the fact that writing a world means that if she thinks something sounds special, then it is.
While he did follow me, Panther grumbled the entire way. When I reached up to poke his ear like I did when he was in his cougar form he snapped at me. His human teeth clacking together an inch from my thumb as I danced back out of reach. That made me smile. Panther was really fast. If he had wanted to bite me, he would have.
It didn’t take long to reach the Cairn. Anything in the part of the woods that townspeople were allowed in wasn’t far. It wasn’t even impressive, just a pile of flat white rocks. One stuck out further than the others like a shelf. There was a bundle of dead flowers on it.
“Cool. That must be where we leave the offering.” I dug in my bag.
Panther kicked at leaves on the ground. “Please, Molly? I have a really bad feeling about this.”
“Is it a magic feeling?” I perked up. Panther never wanted to talk about magic.
His nose wrinkled. “No. I’m not an oracle or anything like that, I just don’t think this is a good idea.”
I stopped moving, jar of peanut butter in my hand. “You’re afraid of this Alon guy.”
“No, I’m not,” Panther blurted out. He crossed his arms with his hands under his armpits and glared at the Cairn.
“Careful, boy. Our kind avoid lying for a reason.” We both turned to see a man walking from the direction of the Woods. He was short, barely taller than me, with a shaggy brown beard down to his belly and equally long hair braided with gray beads and feathers.
Panther scampered between me and the shaggy guy. His arms were spread wide with his fingers crooked as he hissed like an angry kitten. “Back off, Alon.”
“Relax. You’re not in the Woods proper, so I don’t have to kill you, and I don’t hurt my parishioners.” Alon sounded smug. Panther crossed his arms again. I started, remembering why I was there.
“Oh, that’s right, here.” I put the jar on the shelf along with Grandma’s teeth. “I brought you a gift to ask for justice.”
Alon raised a bushy eyebrow. “What is that?”
I broke into a smug smile. “A whole jar of chunky peanut butter just for you, and my grandmother’s dentures. They were really expensive when she got them, and Mom would be super mad if she knew I took them, but they’re for you too.”
Panther’s shoulders slumped and he looked at the ground. “Please don’t kill her for being rude. She doesn’t know her gifts are dumb.”
“Hey!” I put my hands on my hips.
Alon laughed and Panther startled. “Don’t worry. It really is the thought that counts. Very well, girl. What do you ask for?”
Panther turned to me and waved his arms frantically. “No, Molly, please don’t!”
I ignored him and leaned over to peer at Alon. “I want justice for my friend’s parents.”
The smile fell off Alon’s face. “That’s not possible.”